The U.S. economy added more than half a million private sector jobs in March, payroll processing group ADP said Wednesday, a figure that fell just shy of Wall Street forecasts ahead of Friday's official employment report.
ADP said in its National Employment Report, which it compiles with Moody's Analytics, that private sector jobs grew by 517,000 last month, just shy of Street forecasts of a 525,000 total but the strongest monthly figure since September. The final reading for February was revised by an extra 59,000 positions to 176,000.
"We saw marked improvement in March's labor market data, reporting the strongest gain since September 2020," said ADP's chief economist, Nela Richardson. "Job growth in the service sector significantly outpaced its recent monthly average, led with notable increase by the leisure and hospitality industry."
"This sector has the most opportunity to improve as the economy continues to gradually reopen and the vaccine is made more widely available," Richardson added. "We are continuing to keep a close watch on the hardest hit sectors but the groundwork is being laid for a further boost in the monthly pace of hiring in the months ahead."
The Bureau of Labor Statistics will publish its official non-farm payroll report Friday, despite stock markets being closed for Good Friday observances, with economists looking for a headline total that represents around 1 million new jobs.
U.S. stocks futures were little changed following the ADP data release, with contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average indicating a 35 point point opening bell decline and those linked to the S&P 500 priced for a modest 1 point gain.